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What to Expect in the First 24 Hours With Your New Dog
Written by Jennifer Lesser
From the cuddles to the cuteness, welcoming a new four-legged family member into your home is certainly an exciting time. However, that isn’t to say that those first hours with a new dog (or a new baby for that matter) don’t come with their own unique challenges. There’s accidents and sleep deprivation and, much like becoming mom and dad to a human baby, many pet parents will wonder if they’re “doing it right.” Here’s what to do in those first 24 hours to help ease the transition for both the human and canine members of your family.
Tips for the First 30 Days of Dog Adoption
The first few days in your home are special and critical for a pet. Your new dog will be confused about where he is and what to expect from you. Setting up some clear structure with your family for your dog will be paramount in making as smooth a transition as possible.
- Determine where your dog will be spending most of his time. Because he will be under a lot of stress with the change of environment (from shelter or foster home to your house), he may forget any housebreaking (if any) he’s learned. Often a kitchen will work best for easy clean-up.
- If you plan on crate training your dog, be sure to have a crate set-up and ready to go for when you bring your new dog home. Find out more about crate training your dog.
- Dog-proof the area where your pooch will spend most of his time during the first few months. This may mean taping loose electrical cords to baseboards; storing household chemicals on high shelves; removing plants, rugs, and breakables; setting up the crate, and installing baby gates.
- Training your dog will start the first moment you have him. Take time to create a vocabulary list everyone will use when giving your dog directions. This will help prevent confusion and help your dog learn his commands more quickly. Not sure which commands to use? Check out How to Talk to Your Dog.
- Bring an ID tag with your phone number on it with you when you pick up your dog so that he has an extra measure of safety for the ride home and the first few uneasy days. If he is microchipped, be sure to register your contact information with the chip’s company, if the rescue or shelter did not already do so.
First day with New Dog
- We know moving is stressful — and your new dog feels the same way! Give him time to acclimate to your home and family before introducing him to strangers. Make sure children know how to approach the dog without overwhelming him. Go here for more on introducing dogs and children.
- When you pick up your dog, remember to ask what and when he was fed. Replicate that schedule for at least the first few days to avoid gastric distress. If you wish to switch to a different brand, do so over a period of about a week by adding one part new food to three parts of the old for several days; then switch to half new food, half old, and then one part old to three parts new. For more information about your dog’s diet, check out our section on Dog Nutrition.
- On the way home, your dog should be safely secured, preferably in a crate. Some dogs find car trips stressful, so having him in a safe place will make the trip home easier on him and you.
- Once home, take him to his toileting area immediately and spend a good amount of time with him so he will get used to the area and relieve himself. Even if your dog does relieve himself during this time, be prepared for accidents. Coming into a new home with new people, new smells and new sounds can throw even the most housebroken dog off-track, so be ready just in case. Need more housetraining tips? Check out our Dog Housetraining section.
- If you plan on crate training your dog, leave the crate open so that he can go in whenever he feels like it in case he gets overwhelmed. Also, be sure to check out the do’s and don’ts of crate training your dog.
- From there, start your schedule of feeding, toileting and play/exercise. From Day One, your dog will need family time and brief periods of solitary confinement. Don’t give in and comfort him if he whines when left alone. Instead, give him attention for good behavior, such as chewing on a toy or resting quietly (Source: Preparing Your Home For A New Dog).
- For the first few days, remain calm and quiet around your dog, limiting too much excitement (such as the dog park or neighborhood children). Not only will this allow your dog to settle in easier, it will give you more one-on-one time to get to know him and his likes/dislikes.
- If he came from another home, objects like leashes, hands, rolled up newspapers and magazines, feet, chairs and sticks are just some of the pieces of “training equipment” that may have been used on this dog. Words like “come here” and “lie down” may bring forth a reaction other than the one you expect.Or maybe he led a sheltered life and was never socialized to children or sidewalk activity. This dog may be the product of a never-ending series of scrambled communications and unreal expectations that will require patience on your part.
- People often say they don’t see their dog’s true personality until several weeks after adoption. Your dog may be a bit uneasy at first as he gets to know you. Be patient and understanding while also keeping to the schedule you intend to maintain for feeding, walks, etc. This schedule will show your dog what is expected of him as well as what he can expect from you.
- After discussing it with your veterinarian to ensure your dog has all the necessary vaccines, you may wish to take your dog to group training classes or the dog park. Pay close attention to your dog’s body language to be sure he’s having a good time — and is not fearful or a dog park bully. If you’re unsure of what signs to watch for, check out this video on safety at the dog park.
- To have a long and happy life together with your dog, stick to the original schedule you created, ensuring your dog always has the food, potty time and attention he needs. You’ll be bonded in no time! For more information on creating a feeding schedule for your dog visit How Often Should You Feed Your Dog?
- If you encounter behavior issues you are unfamiliar with, ask your veterinarian for a trainer recommendation. Select a trainer who uses positive-reinforcement techniques to help you and your dog overcome these behavior obstacles. Visit Dog Training for more information on reward-based training.
Congratulations! If you follow these tips, you’ll be on your way to having a well-adjusted canine family member.
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Before Your New Dog Arrives
(Picture Credit: AndreaObzerova/Getty Images)
Even before your new dog first sets paw in your home, you’ll need to make some preparations. These steps will ensure that your dog gets the best start possible in their new life.
1. Have A Family Meeting
A dog is a big commitment, so before you take the plunge, make sure you’re all together on wanting this newest member of the family.
Then decide who’s going to be the primary caretaker–otherwise you’ll spend lots of time arguing while your new dog stares at their empty food bowl.
To avoid confusing the pup, hammer out the house rules ahead of time–will the dog be allowed on the bed? On the couch? Where will the dog sleep? Are any rooms of the house permanently off-limits? Include your family on the decisions so everyone is on the same page.
2. Stock Up On Supplies
Buy some of the basics ahead of time, so you both and your dog can settle in without too many mad dashes to the store.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
- Food and water bowls
- Food and maybe some treats for training–talk to your vet about an appropriate diet
- Collar and leash
- Toys, especially chew toys
- Stain- and odor-removing cleaners
- Possibly some baby or dog gates to block off sections of your house
3. Prepare Your Home
(Picture Credit: Kira-Yan/Getty Images)
This requires a little more work if you’re getting a puppy, since they can be champion chewers and have a knack for getting into things they shouldn’t. But no matter what your dog’s age, you’ll want to do some organizing ahead of time.
Create a temporary, gated-off living space for your dog or pup where they can’t damage your belongings or eat something that will make them sick. They’ll stay in this area whenever you’re not with them to prevent them from having house training accidents.
Pick a room that’s a center of activity in your household, so your dog won’t feel isolated, and be sure it’s one with easy-to-clean floors. The kitchen is often a good choice; you can block it off with baby gates if needed. Make sure you remove anything that you don’t want chewed on or soiled.
What’s in your dog’s area will vary a bit depending on their age and how you’re house training.
Puppy-proof to make sure anything that could hurt your dog–medicines, chemicals, certain plants–is out of reach.
4. Arrange For Home Care
Ideally, you can take a few days to a week off work to get your new dog or puppy settled in and to start house training. It’ll also help the two of you bond, which in itself can make training easier.
But even if you can take some time off, you’ll need a back-up team in place pretty quickly. Shop around for dog walkers, pet sitters, or doggy daycare in your area. Rely on friends and family for word of mouth recommendations.
You can also check out our guide to choose which service suits you and your dog best: Doggy Daycare VS. Dog Walker VS. Pet Sitter: Which Is Best?
5. Find A Good Trainer Or Class
Group obedience classes are great for bonding with your new dog and for learning how to communicate with and train them. These classes are especially recommended for young puppies, since they give pups a chance to get comfortable being around other canines and people–a key part of raising a safe, friendly dog.
Dog training is unregulated, and pretty much anyone can call themselves a dog trainer, so you’ll want to do a little research to make sure you’ve found the right class and teacher.
6. Plan The Trip Home
Find a helper to come along when you go to pick up your dog. Young puppies who’ve never been on a car ride before may get rattled. Even adult dogs can get nervous–and a terror-filled car ride can turn into a long-lasting phobia of car travel.
Ask someone to sit next to your dog on the ride home, soothing them and keeping them from hopping into your lap while you’re driving.
If your dog is used to a crate, you can place them in the crate for the ride home. Just make sure it’s secure; sliding around the backseat will make the drive more stressful.
Let them Settle In
Within the first few hours after your dog’s arrival, you’ll want to make sure that they have everything they’ll need to make your house feel like a forever home. Have the basic necessities already stocked, like:
- A leash and collar
- Poop bags
- Puppy food (preferably the brand they’ve already been eating)
The last thing you’ll want to do is make a run to the nearest pet store when your dog is just getting used to their new environment (and people).
You’ll also want to make an effort to keep those early hours calm and relaxed. Keep visitors to a minimum while your pup has peace and quiet for napping and exploring their new digs. Encourage younger children to lay low for a day or two and give the dog some privacy to prevent the dog from getting overwhelmed, and keep other pets away from your new pup until they’re more acclimated.
Be aware that your new adorable pup could sleep up to 20 hours a day, and as soon as they wake, they’ll probably need a bathroom break, so prepare to take off work for a few days.
When they’re not sleeping (or sniffing), one of the first things you’ll want to do is introduce your new family member to their potty area. Whether it’s a specific section of grass out front, your fenced-in backyard, or you plan to use an indoor wee-wee pad, potty training should begin within minutes of your pet’s arrival. For new puppies, set an alarm to head to the “potty” every two hours or so.
Even if you’ve adopted an older, previously house-trained dog, it’s likely that there are still going to be some accidents as they acclimate to their new surroundings. The sooner you can establish a routine—and get into the practice of heaping lots of praise (and treats!) on your pet for doing their business outside—the faster you’ll be on your way to a potty-trained pooch.
Setting Simple Boundaries
Much like potty training, those first few hours your dog is home is also the prime opportunity to teach your furry friend the house rules. Don’t want your puppy chewing on the furniture? You’ll have to keep a watchful eye on your mischievous pup to catch them in the act and interrupt the misbehavior. That’s the best time to introduce an exciting new toy and offer lots of praise for chewing on a bone instead of your dining room table.
Introduce Pet-Friendly Zones
After the first few hours, you might find yourself needing to get things done around the house or take a break from the 24-hour supervision that a new dog requires. That’s where a crate, gate, or playpen comes in handy. You’ll want to take time to introduce your dog to any pet-friendly zones you’ve prepared for them. Outfit their special areas with a dog bed, blanket, toys, and any other cozy additions to make them feel at home.
Since you’ve already started establishing daily routines, acquainting your pooch to their section of the family room or a guest bedroom is a great thing to do after they’re done exploring the house—and if you haven’t already, now is a good time to pet-proof any other areas of the home that they seemed to take an interest in, such as closets with your favorite shoes.
After they’ve been home for a few hours, get all of the members of the family down on the floor to engage in some quality play-time to begin a positive association. If you’ll be feeding your dog in the kitchen, serve them a meal in the place where they will now be dining. If you’ll be taking your dog for a leashed walk around the neighborhood or letting them burn off some energy in their new backyard, that they are constantly supervised and prevented from letting their curiosity and excitement put them in danger.
Get Some Sleep
Plan to hit the hay a little earlier than normal—much like a new baby, a puppy will likely prevent you from sleeping much those first nights. Even an older dog may feel scared or uncertain in their new surroundings (so don’t be overly alarmed by whining or crying in the wee hours of the night), and they might need a few potty breaks throughout the night.
Many pet owners have their dog’s crate set up in their bedroom to provide that physical closeness and reassurance—as well as fast access to the outdoors when needed—and you’ll want to be sure to make their crate as comfortable as possible with bedding, a blanket, or even a soft plush toy (assuming the dog can be trusted not to tear it to shreds).
Whenever possible, you may also want to provide something that reminds a puppy of their mother, such as a blanket or towel that they used before you took them home, or even some of the mother’s bedding if you’re able to take it home from the breeder.
No matter what your new dog’s age, taking these steps to help them feel at home—while still establishing some boundaries and house rules—can make those first 24 hours with your new four-legged family member feel like a walk in the park